Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting clean water

Washington must seem increasingly irrelevant to citizens dealing with Life 101.

For just one example, turn to a state where too many citizens can’t count on a basic commodity. What must the residents of Benton Harbor, Mich., be thinking as they observe their leaders in Washington debating infrastructure and reconciliation bills? They have been advised by state officials to continue to use bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth while action catches up to need — the need being attention paid to a contaminated water supply and aging pipes leaching lead.

The city would like some help from FEMA, the National Guard and officials on the federal level, so local officials voted last week to enact a state of emergency to cut through the noise.

If it all sounds eerily similar to the situation that continues to bedevil Flint, Mich., that’s because it is. In that city, after seven years dealing with its own state-caused, contaminated water disaster, after lawsuits and a resulting program to check and replace its lead pipes, after President Joe Biden this summer declared “Never again” while touting his infrastructure package, residents are still wary. And can you blame them?

What happened to all the lessons that were supposedly learned? What happens when a crisis passes from the headlines, and pretty quickly when those affected are minorities? (That’s the case in majority Black cities such as Benton Harbor, Flint and Jackson, Miss., whose water crisis may not even have crossed most Americans’ radar.) The lack of political will to invest in these cities is another column.

Well, what happens is the country moves on to another scandal, real or trumped up.

In the real category, I would place investigations into the hidden motives that drive social media operations, and also throw in the Jan. 6 attempt to overturn an election and democracy itself — in fact, that last one could use more attention. Trumped up? That the Virginia gubernatorial contest may hinge on a white student having “nightmares” over reading “Beloved,” an award-winning Toni Morrison book about enslavement, earns a high spot, especially when compared to the lack of focused concern for the children who may have cognitive impairment from contaminated water.

That is, until the crisis happens to you.

Will those who yell the loudest teach kids how the world really works?

We teach our children lessons about leading with empathy and intelligence, about taking the high road, about playing fair. And we warn them that bullies never win in the end. Be the bigger person. Follow the right and righteous path, and you shall be rewarded.

But the examples being set on very public stages tell an entirely different story, one that says accumulating power is the goal, with no guardrails on how you acquire and keep it. Rules are for suckers, unless you’re the one who makes them.

Take voting rights. If the goal of our democracy is to let all eligible Americans vote and for every one of those votes to count, the Freedom to Vote Act would have had a clear glide path to passage. But when, as promised by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the compromise bill massaged by holdout West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was brought to the floor Wednesday, not for a vote but for a mere discussion, Republicans offered no help.

How far Democrats will go to pass rules that creep toward restoring parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, obliterated by the Supreme Court, is uncertain. But for anyone interested in a true representative form of government in the United States, something is needed.

Pairing leadership with justice: Is that so hard, Washington?

It was an example of leadership and justice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, fresh off surviving a recall vote, was not laying low but standing in front of cameras, signing a bill that would return prime property in Manhattan Beach — known as Bruce’s Beach — to descendants of the Black couple who had been run off the land they owned close to a century ago.

It turns out the very white Manhattan Beach was not always that way; the transformation was not by coincidence, but by design.

“As governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do: I want to apologize to the Bruce family,” said Newsom, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. He then handed the signing pen to Anthony Bruce, whose great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce, had once turned the lovely stretch along the water into a needed getaway for African Americans, complete with lodge, cafe and dance hall.

Newsom wasn’t standing alone, literally or otherwise. Behind stood activists with organizations such as Where Is My Land, co-founded by Kavon Ward and Ashanti Martin, who have worked hard and know that the meaning of the word “reparations,” so feared in some circles, is merely “the making of amends for a wrong one has done.”

With freedom rides and ‘states’ rights’ refrains, old times in America are not forgotten

Buses of civil rights demonstrators are on the road carrying Americans who want to send a message to their political leaders. They want to add their voices to the Washington debates over stalled infrastructure legislation, voting rights protections and every important discussion that could affect participation in democracy.

Shades of the 1960s activism that spurred history-making laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, all steps toward a more inclusive country — the goal, unfulfilled, in the idealistic words of America’s founding documents.

An unfortunate throwback also front and center is the opposition, exalting the primacy of “states’ rights.” It is not showing out in the violence that met the earlier bus occupants at stop after stop. But that familiar phrase or the sentiment animating it, the condemnation of interference from the big, bad federal government so dear to the heart of obstructionists back then, was the refrain from Republican senators who on Tuesday voted down any attempt to discuss proposed legislation that would protect the fundamental franchise for all.

POLITICAL WRAP: Senate Unlikely to Support Commission on Capitol Attack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Legislation to establish an independent commission investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6th will likely die in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending strong signals that House Democrats will go it alone if the commission vote fails in the Senate.

Sorry, but ‘Gone With the Wind’ is not a history book

The White House issued a proclamation last week, of the sort that most presidents have issued about historical events that deserve commemorating, but that were missing, for the most part, during the Trump reign.

This one marked the 60th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides, on May 4, 1961, when traveling on a bus meant risking your life, if you were with an integrated group, sitting in a spot of your choice. Those southbound heroes were willing to face beatings and the unknown at the hands of fellow citizens intent on stopping progress by any means necessary. Angry and afraid, the violent white supremacist mobs refused to acknowledge the humanity of African Americans or the validity of any law that looked forward not back.

It’s the reality — and not the myth of uncomplicated greatness the country has told the world and itself for far too long.

And it’s not always pretty.

For that reason, many Republicans want to “cancel” it, to use a word today’s conservatives have been misusing with reckless abandon. They’d like to erase the history and the essential lessons that reveal so much about how and why America is so divided and its systems — of health care, housing, education and more — so inequitable in 2021.

If corporations are people, they just might have an opinion

That Pepsi bottle on the counter looks so out of place. My husband has always been a Diet Coke man. It’s a matter of principle, he tells me, even as he admits he prefers “The Real Thing.” Coca-Cola’s statement disapproving of Georgia’s new voting restrictions was too little, too late, and that’s that, he says. All of that puts the Atlanta-based soft drink giant in a bind, since even its belated critical stand was too much for backers of the bill, who are also banishing Coke from their own fridges, they say.

What’s a company to do?

I can’t feel too sorry for Coca-Cola, Delta and the rest, though, since they’ve been playing the political game forever while pretending to be above it all. And I have to stifle a laugh at the Republican politicians who are admonishing corporations and sports leagues now that the bills the GOP instigated aren’t getting a pass. These are the same pols who eagerly accepted campaign donations and good PR in days past.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is astute enough to recognize why his furrowed brow and outraged words are landing with a thud. It’s why his story is constantly changing. He told companies to stay out of politics, was called on it, then said he meant to only offer advice that business leaders read the fine print before opening their mouths and closing their pocketbooks.

Mary C. Curtis: COVID Relief Bill And Increased Vaccine Rollout

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Efforts continue on another COVID-19 stimulus for millions of struggling Americans. President Biden already meeting with both democrats and republicans this week to talk about his $1.9 trillion plan.

Senate democrats ready to move forward, saying the danger is not doing too much, it’s doing too little.

Political contributor Mary C. Curtis joins Rising to talk about the COVID-19 relief plans in Washington.

You can catch Mary C. Curtis on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM on WCCB Charlotte’s CW discussing the biggest issues in local and national politics and also giving us a look at what’s ahead for the week.

You can also check out Mary’s podcast ‘Equal Time.’

Mary C. Curtis: Will Lawmakers Increase Stimulus Money?

CHARLOTTE, NC — President Donald Trump is pushing for higher COVID payouts as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks a vote on them in the Senate.

WCCB political contributor Mary C. Curtis discusses the latest from Washington and what it means moving forward.

You can catch Mary C. Curtis on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM on WCCB Charlotte’s CW discussing the biggest issues in local and national politics and also giving us a look at what’s ahead for the week.

You can also check out Mary’s podcast ‘Equal Time.’

Mary C. Curtis: Will A Supreme Court Justice Sway The Presidential Race?

CHARLOTTE, NC — In her first week on the job, Justice Amy Coney Barrett could be weighing in on a number of important cases piling up in the Supreme Court, including several related to next week’s election.

WCCB political contributor Mary C. Curtis weighs-in on what kind of impact Barrett could have on the presidential race.